5 Ways To Learn Something New (And Keep Your Brain Sharp And Happy)

5 Ways To Learn Something New (And Keep Your Brain Sharp And Happy)

Once we’re out of school, learning new skills often comes to a halt. Here’s why nurturing your curiosity and desire to learn is quite the “happiness hack.”

You don’t realize it when you’re sitting in a math class at age 15, struggling to understand WTH you need to know about imaginary numbers, but years later, there comes a day when one of the hallmark realizations of adulthood hits you: The act of learning is pretty neat.

Those days of cramming everything you possibly can into your brain are over before you know it, and all of a sudden you’re sucked into a relentless daily grind of earning money to pay the bills. You put that acquired knowledge to work as best as you can, but as your priority shifts to making a living, the act of learning something new often falls by the wayside.

And this really sucks. It’s well-documented that learning a new skill is key in keeping your brain sharp and memories intact, and education is widely acknowledged to be one of the important factors of longevity; it can help lead to better-paying jobs and an improved ability to practice healthier lifestyles.

And yet the dominant cultural narrative continues to uphold a demarcated line between our school years and our work years—we’re continually told that once you’re a “grown up,” there’s no point in attempting to learn a new language, a new instrument, or how to code. Your adult brain isn’t cut out for it, we’re told.

But millennials, of course, aren’t buying it. According to a Gallup study from last year, 59 percent of this generation cites the opportunity to learn as “extremely important” when applying for a job, as opposed to 44 percent of Gen Xers and 41 percent of baby boomers. The study also found that it’s one of the top three factors in millennials staying at their jobs.

All of which is to say: Take this relentless desire to learn and run with it. Not only is the act of learning a priority in prospective jobs, but that desire to grow and explore will have massive benefits as that think-tank of yours starts to show signs of wear.

Below are a few of our favorite resources for learning a new skill from scratch:

  • Why You Should Teach Yourself (At Least A Little) Coding: An article from us on coding curriculum, for even the noobiest of noobs.
  • Duolingo: The free, much-lauded language learning app, just launched a Korean curriculum, with Mandarin Chinese expected to be available by the year’s end.
  • Khan Academy: Offers free online courses on just about every subject, including math, computing, art history, grammar, economics, personal finance, and even entrepreneurship.
  • Coursera: Online courses from some of the world’s top universities. Always wished you could’ve gone to Stanford? Here’s your chance to peep those lesson plans! Courses range from broad (Algorithms, Part I from Princeton) to niche (Postwar Abstract Painting from the Museum of Modern Art).
  • Elevate: Like a workout regimen for your brain, featuring over 40 games that will bolster productivity and sharpen skills in math, reading, writing, speaking and listening.